Narrow Alleys and Courtyards

Narrow Alleys and Courtyards-bp-fi

Small Garden Design: Don’t stuff your narrow bits with clutter!

Alleyways and narrow gardens are always a little tricky to garden. Two reasons, they are narrow, so too much stuff and it looks cluttered and usually they are in deep shade so don’t see much sun or rain for that matter. So what to do.

Take this drawing of a narrow courtyard, there is not much space and because of the high walls around, the sun only reaches halfway down the fence.

Now excusing my poor art ability, there are some improvements you can easily make.


courtyard alley with mirrors


Firstly decide what you are looking at, so where is your main view; through the windows or is it looking down the length of the courtyard? If it is via the windows, then that is where you want the nice stuff to be.  I have also added 3 mirrors to the fence, they will increase the impression of width they also reflect light.  

Secondly, as much as possible declutter; use storage to hide stuff away, but whatever you do, make sure that your stuff is not cluttering up your main view.

Lastly, when planting raise the levels up. So plant in tall pots, you can see the plants from the window and you also lift them up to better light levels and out of the worst of the rain shadow thus helping them grow better.


Here are 3 alternatives, again excuse my graphic design abilities, but you should get the drift.

courtyard and phormiumscourtyard and bamboocourtyard and climber


In the first image, I have used tall cream planters and used the same cream and green plants along the whole of the fence. The intention is to create a simple and uncluttered look to the space which uses light colours to prevent it from looking too dark. If the fences are painted the same colour as the planters, then you will increase the impression of width. The plants shed very few leaves and thrive in those conditions, thus helping keep the visual impression clear and clean. It’s downside though is that although you have light coming in from the fence opposite, you are still looking mainly at a fence

The second image shows how not to do tall planting. You may want to have a little more privacy, but you will cut out valuable light, have planters prone to being blown over, and the whole effect is to close everything in.

The final image on the right, shows how with a few climbers you can really widen the space. The planters and mirrors have been painted the same colour, and because the climbers grow upwards, you retain the visual width. Light can still filter in, as the climber is not to vigorous or dense (some clematis not any montana variety though, would be lovely), the best bit though is as you look out of your main view, you see something lovely!

So there you have it, narrow spaces aren’t that difficult, they just need a little more planning and thought to get right. If however, you are still lacking a few ideas, contact us and we will try to help out. 

Or have a browse through PlantPlots; use the search bar to find answers to all sorts of gardening problems. PlantPlots is a website is absolutely packed with lots of practical sensible ideas that WILL help you transform your garden.

Just start here!